Saturday, 25 January 2014

Paris off the Beaten Track

Paris, Bois de Vincennes ©Solange Hando

Paris in the spring?
Wonderful but when you have seen the iconic landmarks, how about a few secret gems tucked away  in the French capital?

The Bois de Vincennes is a wonderful place to recover after days of sightseeing. The Parisians love it, picnicking or sunbathing on the lawns, rowing on the lake, cycling or wandering around the nursery where plants are grown for all the parks in Paris.

La Villette, the Géode ©Solange Hando

Or you might want to explore the futuristic Parc de la Villette, a vast open space with elevated walkways and the giant sphere of the Géode (over 6000 stainless steel triangles), housing an equally giant cinema screen, for all things cultural.

 The park is also home to the Cité des Sciences, the Cité de la Musique and an old cattle shed turned concert hall. The Canal St Martin is just a few steps away, prized by fishermen, canoeists and anyone looking for a cruise away from the crowds.

Belleville, Vineyard at the heart of Paris ©Solange Hando

BeIleville is one of my favourite districts.
If you wander up to the top of the hill, you'll enjoy a bird's eye view of the city, including the Eiffel Tower in the distance. This lovely vineyard is just there... and yes, they make wine.

There's also  a superb ethnic market selling all sorts of colourful produce from exotic spices and couscous to melons bursting with sunshine, peaches and fresh fish.

Viaduc des Arts in Paris Daumesnil ©Solange Hando

There are lots of unusual museums in Paris, Magic, Perfume, Romantic Life..., but I like to browse around these craft shops which found a home under the archways of a disused railway viaduct, now brimming with antiques, theatre costumes, paintings and much more.

The old track on top has been turned into a 5km long hanging garden, lavender, roses and shrubs, with plunging views over the streets now and then.

Luxembourg Gardens, Paris ©Solange Hando

But if you'd rather to chill out right in town, follow the Parisians to the Luxembourg Gardens, on the left bank of the Seine, looking out to the Eiffel Tower and boasting the French Senate House by the entrance.

It's a favourite haunt for the locals, a place to practise taichi, play chess, read or just sit in the shade and watch the world go by.

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